Are you a solar advocate (chances are...yes!)
As we move ever closer to a society in which renewables power our lives, solar stands to gain. By 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the global cost of renewables will be competitive with fossil fuels, and already, energy companies are able to develop solar PV projects that can deliver energy at half the cost of coal. This is progress, and deserves celebration!
For some people, however, it’s not all about the money. While cost certainly matters for the majority, plenty of research supports the concept of tribal loyalty -- the tendency for people to make decisions based upon the choices of their peer group. When we talk to our friends and family, and thus act as a solar advocate, we stand to contribute to the growth of solar, in Oregon and beyond.
What is a Solar Advocate?
According to the Random House Dictionary, an advocate “...speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc..”
By definition, advocating for solar doesn't take much - no hanging from bridges, lying on railroad tracks or even driving to Salem. While such activism may suit some personalities and lifestyles, many solar enthusiasts don’t strive to be outspoken solar activists. They simply want to live a good life, lean into their values, and reap the multiple benefits that solar offers.
It's quite possible that you're already an solar advocate -- many solar supporters can't help but share their excitement once they catch the solar bug.
What Do You Have to Do?
Advocacy doesn't have to be complicated or take much time. As soon as you start talking to people about what you love about solar, you've entered the land of advocacy.
As you may already know, there are multiple reasons to love solar.
You might have other reasons that you love solar. Which ones might you want to share about first?
Is there More to Advocacy?
Advocacy can be as simple as telling your friends, family or co-workers about one or more of the reasons that you love solar. But for those that want to go even further, here are a few ideas:
Host a Solar Party
Summer is around corner -- prime time for sharing the maximum benefits of your system! Send out an evite, or make an announcement on NextDoor... invite friends and family to come over, check out your system, learn about your process of going solar. Tell them about your contractors, which panels you chose and why, the things you learned, the pitfalls you avoided (or didn't...), share pictures you took, how long it took, etc.
FYI: Invite us or let us co-host your party...We, at Synchro Solar, love to partake in solar parties, and we'd be happy to be there to answer questions that people have. We'll pitch in for $200 for eats/ drinks and brainstorm ideas with you to help make your party a success!
Post on Social Media
A picture is worth a 1000 words, right? Instagramming a photo of your panels, of your inverter, etc, or even utility bill before and after, is a great way to advocate for solar.
Take Part in a Solar Lobby Day
Sometimes, there is legislation that, if passed, would serve to grow solar at the state and national levels. Participating in a Solar Lobby Day, like this one in Oregon in April 2017, or the Western States Federal Lobby Day in Washington D.C. in 2016, can make all the difference for the passage of the legislation. No experience is necessary -- training is generally provided at these events -- and your presence sends a very strong message, particularly as a business owner or homeowner with a personal story.
Write a Letters to your Representatives Showing Support for Policies that Support Solar
Many people believe that their voices don’t matter when it comes to law makers. According to research by the Congressional Management Foundation, however, they do matter, particularly if you learn about and heed the types of communication that have an impact. It can also be helpful to know about the midmarket Solar Policies in Oregon, so that you know which ones are worth supporting. The Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA) also serves as a great resource for knowing which policies to support.
Join Solar Oregon
Solar Oregon is a great resource to connect homeowners, consumers and individuals to solar information and services. They can help you with why and how to go solar, and connect you with other professionals like us.
Invest in Solar Worldwide
There are a number of organizations who make it their mission to improve the lives of those with less, with no access to electricity. Twende Solar is one such organization, who seeks to “bridge the gap between renewable energy experts and energy-poor communities”. Trine is another such organization, and based on their belief that access to clean and reliable energy changes lives, they create opportunities to financially benefit from your personal investment in solar around the world.
Clearly, if you’re ready to share your love of solar with the world -- or even just your friends, family and smaller networks -- there are multiple paths you might follow. Whichever advocacy avenue you choose, please know that we’re here to help. Have some questions? Curious about specific facts that could contribute to your messaging? Give us a call -- we’re happy to support you however we can!
Written By: Tamara Staton
In addition to installing solar arrays on a variety of homes and businesses in Oregon and SW Washington, we at Synchro Solar are also quite passionate about solarizing farms. Last year, at a local nonprofit farm in the heart of SE Portland, we installed a 16.56 kW array using 48 SolarWorld 345- watt modules. While we love solar and are happy to see *any *and *all *systems go up, we were especially excited about this project at Zenger Farm.
Zenger Farm is unique and holds a special place in society. While they have many of the farm accouterments that one might expect -- garden plots, wheelbarrows, chickens and compost -- Zenger goes above and beyond what one would normally expect of a traditional farm, adding a deeper and wider dimension to the field of farming. The solar energy they harness goes far beyond lighting and heating -- one could venture to say that their panels are energizing food access, stewardship and social justice.
Zenger Farm works to increase healthy food access to under supported communities, with a strong focus on education. They model, promote and educate about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship,
community development and access to good food for all, going far beyond simple provision.
For example, all 5th graders from the David Douglas school district will be returning to the farm next month for the Spring session of Farm School, where their seasonal focus will be the sun, the seasons, and the length of days. Students manipulate their own mini-solar panels, harnessing solar energy to become their own solar DJs (more light = faster music!). Such activities inspire curiosity, help students to explore, to learn at their
own pace, and create opportunities for integration, so students can make new connections. Additional opportunities abound for students over spring and summer breaks, providing options to make nature-inspired crafts, explore the wetlands, dig in the garden beds, and cook from the fields. Spring Break campers, K-6, can choose to attend all week or for individual days, while summer campers, K-9th grade, have programs ranging from ‘Wild Craft’ to ‘Junior Chef’, running June through August.
In addition to programming for youth, Zenger Farm offers multiple opportunities for all members of the community to get involved. For those that want to enjoy the fruits of farm labor, a subscription share to a
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great option, and even comes complete with a long list of shared recipes.
Groups and individuals are encouraged to set up a visit --- exploration happens regularly at the farm, with almost daily field trips and hands on exploration. From time to time, the farm hosts events, as well. Last year, Synchro Solar was a sunshine sponsor for the Annual Hoedown on July 22, and enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a sunny, community-based party that, according to Kelli Wolford, Synchro General Manager, felt more like a super fun family reunion than a fundraising event. “It was wonderful to see so many people come together who care about the accessibility of good quality, local, healthy food throughout our diverse community,” Wolford shares. “For me, the passion behind teaching young people about farming is huge...this
goes hand in with teaching a new generation about solar. Health of people and health of planet wrapped up in one.”
Stewardship and sustainability are overlapping values that we share as Synchro Solar and Zenger Farm. We exist as interdependent entities and individuals with a responsibility to protect and integrate. Maya Edelstein,
Development and Communications Manager at Zenger, recognizes this priority and the key role that the many partners play for Zenger Farm. “We’re aware,” says Maya, “that the work that we’re doing around food access,
sustainability and education requires community partnership and support.”
We don’t exist in a vacuum, we can’t do this alone. Relying on and supporting each other -- our communities, our partners -- is akin to doing the same from the sun, for the earth, for those of us that seek
independence from that which repels interdependence. What we do now makes a difference: the solar we install, the communities we support, the youth whom we educate. The way we support each other and the earth on which we live, pays dividends and beyond to those who need them when they’re needed most. Thank you, Zenger Farm, for taking on what really matters.
Written By: Tamara Staton
Get some of your State and Federal taxes back!!
How would you spend your taxes? Put them back in your pocket!!!
Tax season is here! Don’t know about you, but we LOVE getting a big fat credit from Uncle Sam. Did you know that Washington residents who install a new solar PV project qualify for a substantial federal tax credit and an annual check from Washington State? They are literally paying you to go green. Is this some sort of magic?? No -- just some wonderful legislation by our state and federal government.
In 2006 the Federal government enacted the “Investment Tax Credit” or ITC to encourage growth in the development of green energy, including Solar PV systems. In 2015 this investment into renewables was extended through 2021 for residential installations and in perpetuity for commercial installations. Although the % of credit decreases over time.
Following suit, the state of Washington enacted their “Production Based Incentive” AKA “Feed In Tariff” or FIT program that same year. This program was wildly popular and quickly ran out of funds. In 2017 Governor Inslee signed legislation to add additional funding to the program. This additional 110 million dollar investment by the state has been so popular that while it was planned to last through 2020, it appears it may not last the year.
How many solar incentives are available for Washington state residents? (hint: 3)
Washington State pays residential homeowners based on their annual production, and the sooner you install a system , the sooner you can start producing your own clean energy and making the sun work for you. In a time when it seems that only large corporations and the wealthy are getting kick backs, these are programs that assist the average working class family and small businesses to make a difference. To be able to determine how their energy is produced. To do their part for the environment. But despite the lack of public pomp and circumstance, Washington residents now have an amazing opportunity to generate money on energy by taking advantage of recent funding to the Washington State Renewable Energy System Incentive Program
Receive Payments for up to Eight Years
This FIT Production Incentive is the program managed by Washington State University (WSU) and administered by your local utility to pay you for every kilowatt hour (kWh) produced by your renewable energy system, regardless of how much electricity you use. Incentive payments will be made for eight fiscal years (up to $5,000 per year), or until cumulative incentive payments reach 50% of the total system price, whichever occurs first.
The Sooner you Install, the More you Save
Your incentive rate is based on the fiscal year of your solar system’s certification by WSU . The rate decreases every year thru 2021, so the sooner you install the higher the rate you are able to secure. Once locked in, you will reap the benefits at the same rate for the entirety of the program. 12kW is the maximum residential system size. Systems larger than 12kW benefit from the commercial incentive rates. The new program’s cumulative incentive budget over the life of the program is capped at $110 million. Ownership of the renewable energy credits or "green tags" remains with the customer-generator, and your solar electric system must be certified by the State Department of Revenue. Check out the Incentive structure breakdown in the graphic below.
Washington-Made Bonus Rate Available
On top of these savings, a made-in-Washington bonus rate is applicable to renewable energy systems with solar modules that are made in Washington (There is no longer a made-in-Washington bonus for inverters). As outlined in the graphic, if you install and receive certification for a residential solar PV system with WA-made modules in fiscal year 2018, you would lock in your rate of 21 cents per kilowatt hour for the life of your incentive.
Additional Savings Opportunities
In addition to the FIT Production Incentive, there are two additional incentives Washingtonians can utilize to offset the cost of a renewable energy system: Net Metering and a Federal Tax Credit.
Any solar electricity that you generate that is not locally consumed goes to the grid, spinning the meter backwards, storing your surplus energy on the grid to be used later. Every kWh you send to the grid is a kWh you don’t have to buy later. At the end of any billing period, if overall electric production exceeds consumption (indicated by a negative meter reading), a billing credit at current retail rates is applied to your next bill.
A Federal Tax Credit of 30% is also available to individuals and businesses towards the cost of solar technology installations. The credit applies to the total remaining after any utility incentives have been taken, if available.
Let Us Help you with the Details
It can feel overwhelming to know if, how, or when to dive into a savings opportunity, particularly when saving requires spending. But we at Synchro Solar are eager for you to take advantage of benefits when they come along. With the planned rate decrease over time, those who are ready and able to dive into solar will end up with the biggest savings over time. John Kim, our Solar Manager here at Synchro, has been selling systems for a number of years. He knows that there’s no better time to go solar than right now. “As time passes,” he says, ”the incentive reduces, and the opportunity to get the maximum 50% offset from the State will slip away. In the meantime, nearly 40% or more of the energy produced on your behalf will continue to come from non-renewable, dirty sources, like fracking for natural gas, coal, and even nuclear. This time, you get to choose where your tax dollars get spent.”
The Federal government and the State legislature have both done their parts to invest in green renewable energy for home and business owners. You can join the movement to help our environment while taking advantage of these investments and do your part for the planet.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact one of us to discuss these excellent opportunities with you so you, too, can create your own positive energy.
Project Manager Leif Rhoades has spent the last decade investing his time in renewable energy. In college he started out studying Environmental Science, his passion, and soon saw the intrinsic link between economic structures and environmental stewardship. Recognizing that with the proper foresight positive environmental and financial gains do not need to be mutually exclusive, he decided to add another major in Economics. He has since used this background to develop cost-efficient solar energy projects across the Pacific North West.
"I started to see how many of the environmental issues we face are due to the exclusion of biological cost accounting from industrial development." says Leif. "I wanted to better understand the intersection between responsible practices, both financial and environmental, and help develop practices that better account for the real cost of doing business"
"And then the question started to be "how can we afford to live these energy intensive lifestyles without taking the consequences of our consumption into consideration? We can't binge-watch Netflix in our 70 degree homes all winter long without thinking about where that electricity and heat came from."
"I found myself wanting to help others, including myself, to have a closer connection to their energy source".
A few years later, he graduated and moved to Portland, a historically solar-friendly city, and began looking around for potential opportunities to get his foot in the door of an industry that had captivated him.
"I had heard about these networking events for solar folks in Portland, Solar Drinks, which combines two of my favorite things: cocktails and solar energy, so of course I went". There he met three of Synchro Solar's owners, Sarah Freel, Jeni Hall, and Brion Wickstrom. (Jeni has since moved on to work for the Energy Trust of Oregon and Sarah now works at SolarWorld).
Leif's friendly attitude and obvious passion for sustainability landed him a position at Synchro, where he's grown into one of Portland's youngest Solar Project Managers.
"At Synchro we have this amazing team of people who are motivated to making this a better industry and a better world. As a small company we are able to form relationships with our clients. It's not just numbers or projects, it's people. Brion, the owner, is passionately dedicated to this work, so it's been awesome to learn from him and his years of experience."
"We don't do cookie-cutter. When looking at a new project we start fresh. Our goal is to design each project for the specific property and the owner's needs. It's a team-based approach too, so we have all of these great minds coming together to make each system the best that we can.
I started my solar career in 2004 at Mr. Sun Solar. I had been interested in solar for a long time and was intrigued by the energy independence it had to offer.
I was working random jobs while pursuing the inside electrical apprenticeship program. On the way to my job at the time, as a mover, I drove by Mr. Sun’s office every day. One day without thinking about it I turned my head in the direction of the Mr Sun office and not even sure what Mr. Sun meant, I decided to stop the van and go inside.
I ended up starting my first day of work with Mr. Sun about two weeks later. I showed up for my first day at what was known as the “old shop”, I think it’s now the old old old shop. I was excited to work my first day in solar! I spent the next six months of my solar career replacing a sidewalk, remodeling a bathroom at an apartment connected to the shop and fixing up John’s (Mr. Sun’s owner) house.